literature review format

literature review format

The Importance of Literature Review in Research

1. Introduction

These two models have yielded seven-step approaches to conducting a literature review. Although there is no formal method of developing a literature review, these models are a good template for the start of one’s final product. More and more these days, the steps of a review are viewed as a systematic method of searching, analyzing, and selecting findings. Given the model is a guide for the review, word for word it should not be taken to be. By using a structured model to create a review, it implies that the author does not need to be creative, and that there are right and wrong ways of preparing a literature review. This is false. A literature review is an interpretative case of an essay. With total creative liberty given, an author should choose to do a review that interests him. Given a chunk of research is focused on one particular study, it is not to say that is all that the research can focus on. Step seven of model one suggests that the author writes a review. This is a bad suggestion. The reason being is that it is so very easy to take article after article and just keep writing more summaries. A much better suggestion is to write a comprehensive report on what the review has found, thus far, so the reader will understand the relevance of the review to his or her study. This will provide a good foundation to write a properly formatted research paper. With the planning so critical to a good review, the author has developed a created the following template for making a structured review.

Model 2 Step 1: Problem Identification Step 2: Information Gathering Step 3: Informal Review Step 4: Decision Step 5: Review Specification Step 6: Review Performance Step 7: Implementing the Review

Model 1 Step 1: Select a topic Step 2: Decide on the scope of the review Step 3: Select the databases Step 4: Conduct a literature search Step 5: Get the articles Step 6: Review the literature Step 7: Write the review

Development of a literature review

2. Understanding the Literature Review

A good literature review is important because it updates the reader on the state of current research about a topic, identifying areas in the literature which are problematic or where interesting and useful evidence or argument is being missed. It also inculcates in the author the critical and analytical skills that are a prerequisite for producing a high quality piece of work. In order to develop these and other important research skills, the author must be willing to spend time locating, analysing, and deriving useful information from the literature and it is not at all unusual for this to take several days or, more likely, several weeks. This is due in part to the fact that in research one piece of new knowledge will often lead to several other questions, and it is necessary to locate and read further articles and papers to answer these. A good literature review, thus, is not only a valuable component of a research-based assignment, but will help build skills for the author in a number of areas which may not be immediately germane to research.

3. Benefits of Conducting a Literature Review

A literature review guides the researcher in the area to be researched and shows the researcher whether the research has already been done. The review may bring to the surface some weaknesses in previous research, which the researcher may build upon. The researcher also may see not only the “gaps” but also where the research may be continued or extended. Fink (1998) supports the notion of building and testing theories by providing evidence of whether they are adequate. He also argues that the literature review helps to avoid investigation already done. If we were to find that our research had already been carried out very similar to our research, it would be a waste of resource, time and money. A literature review is essential to the development of good research and methodological practice. It is an important tool, which is essential for any research area and a key in developing a thought out, well planned and methodical research project. A well done review of literature is also a great asset to the researcher. As a proposal and a research project is written up, the review can be constantly revisited to see whether the research is going in the right direction and to evaluate if the provided evidence is sufficient.

4. Steps to Conduct an Effective Literature Review

Evaluate the found materials – For a critical and well-constructed literature review, the thoroughness with which one evaluates the material is where the quality can make the difference. It is important to critically analyze the sources and evaluate the foundation of the topic in question. More specifically, the data it presents and the methodology in which the study was conducted. Given that some sources may have to be looked at in depth before a decision can be made whether it is relevant to your topic, it is worth setting criteria for what is to be looked for in order to quickly rule out non-relevant sources. Finally, make sure to summarize the material and evaluate its position in the literature in question.

Locate materials – The ability to find what is relevant to the need is a key quality of a good literature review. Sources for a literature review can be anything including a book, an article, or a web page. Given the limited scope of a literature review, at least in the initial stages, selection needs to be precise. This means the review should have tangible and definite limits. It is also important to organize the review around the specific criteria needed, so it is easier to categorize different sources. For example, for a study into the effects of alcohol on a young adult’s behavior, you may set criteria for any studies that use participants between the ages of 18-24.

Define a topic and audience. – An effective literature review is based on a firm understanding of the subject and all studies about it. This comes from a good understanding of the literature. Gather and read the research and write a basic hypothesis on what you feel the results of the studies are. This will help to define the parameters of your literature review and be a useful source when it comes to organizing your review.

5. Conclusion

A good literature review requires a full range of inquiry and knowledge of the field. Whether for a dissertation, a grant application, or publication, the literature review requires an informed inquiry on the field that is being written about. This means that it is not just a descriptive list of the material available or a set of summaries. A literature review is certainly not an academic research paper, an annotated bibliography, or a paper on a topic. A literature review is an analysis of the existing research which is significant to continuing work on a given topic. It is a review of the theory as well as the current research, which leads to a conclusion of what, where, why, and how work needs to be done.

In conclusion, an effective literature review in research allows for a comprehensive view of the landscape of a given field or topic and an integral tool in the arsenal of any modern-day researcher. More than just a mere requirement or hurdle, an effective literature review will result in the identification and location of relevant resources and an updated synthesis of what is known and unknown about a topic. The process in turn helps one become more fluent in a specific subject, avoid duplicating past work, understand the past and current status of a topic, and provide the basis for further research.

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